The Farooq Abdullah-led People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration on Wednesday swept the District Development Council elections in Jammu and Kashmir by winning 110 seats, while the Bharatiya Janata Party emerged as the single-largest party, with 75 seats.
The National Conference won 67 seats – the highest in the Gupkar Alliance. The Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party won 27 seats, People’s Conference secured eight. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) bagged five seats, and the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Movement won three.
Independent candidates managed to win 50 seats. The Congress won 26 seats, while the recently-floated Apni Party bagged 12. The Peoples Democratic Front and the National Panthers Party won two seats each, while the Bahujan Samaj Party got one seat.
With its tally of 110, the Gupkar Alliance has swept six district councils, The Hindu reported. It is set to have district chairpersons in Kulgam, Kupwara, Budgam, Anantnag, Pulwama and Ganderbal. It is one seat short of a clear majority in Shopian, Baramulla and Bandipora districts. The BJP, on the other hand, won Kathua, Samba, Udhampur Jammu and Doda seats.
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A total of 2,178 candidates contested the DDC elections – the first since the erstwhile state lost its special status under the Constitution on August 5, 2019. Each of the 20 districts were divided into 14 segments.
Earlier in the day, the BJP claimed that its election performance marked the victory of democracy and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for Jammu and Kashmir, while the Gupkar Alliance said that the people had rejected the Centre’s decision to scrap the region’s special status and supported the coalition “overwhelmingly”.
Voting for the elections was held in eight phases over a period of 25 days. The elections are a step to setting up district development councils, a new addition to Jammu and Kashmir’s panchayati raj system. The directly elected district councils will replace the district development boards originally envisaged as the third tier of local government by the 1989 Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act. The boards were to consist of the block council chiefs, local MPs, MLAs and municipal council members. But Jammu and Kashmir’s legislative Assembly was dissolved after August 5 last year.
The jurisdiction of the district development councils, which have a five-year term, will not extend to those areas notified as municipalities. So elections will only be held in areas falling outside municipalities. There are reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women.
Each district council will have five standing committees – one each for finance, development, public works, health and education, and welfare. While they might look after the day to day and developmental needs of the district, members of the council have no say on larger political issues such as special status, land laws and industrial policy.